NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 1, 2008

The use of a car -- gas included -- is one of the benefits of being a member of New York's House of Representatives, says Raymond Hernandez.  There are few restrictions on what kind of car the members can choose, and there is no limit on how much they can spend.

Not only does the federal government pick up the cost of the lease and the gas, but also general maintenance, insurance, registration fees and excess mileage charges. The perk itself may draw heightened attention in the coming weeks as members of Congress consider proposals to address gas prices, including one to suspend temporarily the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon.

The choice in vehicles can range from modest to extravagant, for the some 125 members of the House who make use of the benefit:

  • Charles B. Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, leases a 2004 Cadillac DeVille for $777.54 a month; the car is 17 feet long with a 300-horsepower engine and seats five comfortably.
  • Rep. Michael R. McNulty, a Democrat from the Albany area, gets around in a 2007 Mercury Mariner hybrid, a sport utility vehicle, for $816 a month.
  • Rep. Edolphus Towns, a Brooklyn Democrat, said he had begun to take fuel economy into consideration and recently traded in his 2005 Lincoln Town Car (at $845 a month) for a 2008 Lincoln MKX, called a crossover utility vehicle, (at $715 a month).
  • Rep. Jim Saxton, a Republican of New Jersey, leases a 2004 Chevy TrailBlazer at what he views as a reasonable $310 a month.
  • Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, a Queens Democrat, who leases a 2007 Lexus LS 460 at $998 a month.

The Senate does not permit its members to lease cars with public money.

Source: Raymond Hernandez, "What Would You Drive, if the Taxpayers Paid?" New York Times, May 1, 2008.

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